Bikini Atoll

“As soon as the war ended, we located the one spot on Earth that hadn’t been touched by war and blew it to Hell”. (Bob Hope, comedian)
“The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.” (Albert Einstein)
“…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”. (Galatians 6:7)

Today August 6th, we have the 68th anniversary of the explosion of our “Little Boy” weapon of mass destruction, which reigned immediate and ongoing terror over the civilian population of Hiroshima. The shock and awe of this event and its long term tragic aftermath received little mention in today’s mainstream press, and the subsequent events at Bikini Atoll even less. Nevertheless, these nuclear catastrophes are integrally connected within a long, ongoing story which might be titled something like “From Hiroshima to Fukushima…with no end in sight”.

Bikini Atoll was recently named as a World Heritage Site, in recognition of its role as the location of nuclear weapons tests which shaped global culture during the second half of the 20th century. There is no one there to celebrate this dubious distinction since this formerly pristine tropical paradise has been rendered uninhabitable.

Bikini Atoll is an oval shaped reef giving rise to 23 tiny islands and one of 29 atolls and five islands that compose the Marshall Islands. Halfway between Australia and Hawaii, the Marshalls are scattered over 357,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean, north of the equator, in a geographic area known as Micronesia. After the U.S. military took control of Bikini Atoll from the Japanese, it was chosen as ground zero for our post-war nuclear weapons testing program. The fact that this site was inhabited was no deterrent and skillful use of a psy-ops strategy quickly cleared the region for their mission. Our nuclear conquistadors carried out their ultimately genocidal de-population strategy by a smooth tongued reference to Biblical stories that the local natives had learned from Christian missionaries. Doubtful residents reluctant to leave their ancestral dwellings were likened to “the children of Israel whom the Lord saved from the enemy and led them into the Promised Land”. They were further assured that their departure would be “for the good of mankind and to end all wars”. As Bikini’s inhabitants were summarily loaded onto Navy boats, they were given cheerful assurances that they could return home as soon as tests were completed. (Jonathan Weisgall, Operation Crossroads: Atomic Tests At Bikini Atoll, 1994).

The Nuclear weapons tests carried out at Bikini Atoll, known as Operation Crossroads, probably qualify as one of the most spectacular, grandiose, obscene, and expensive scientific experiments carried out in all of human history. As a result we are left with a World Heritage Site, where an apparent heaven on Earth conceals a nightmare of toxic horrors just below the surface. This gargantuan operation involved some 40,000 unprotected military and civilian personnel; exposed to high levels of radiation, mostly wearing sunglasses and swimwear henceforth known as “bikinis”. Only minimal records were kept of these exposure events and there was little medical follow up or concern for the physical and/or psychological well-being of these nuclear veterans. Two hundred forty- two ships also took part, as well as 156 aircraft, over 300 cameras plus 300 tons of film. In order to study the effects of radiation on mammals, 3,350 rats, goats and pigs were brought along for sacrifice. Some had their fur shaven their and bare skins covered with suntan lotion to determine if that might somehow mitigate the effects of gamma radiation.

The mind boggles at the zeal of the Strangelovian levels of pyrotechnic destruction unleashed at Bikini Atoll, all in the Orwellian name of World Peace. During what is known as the Castle Series of explosions, Castle Bravo probably generated the most devastation. During March of 1954, the military detonated a 15 ton hydrogen bomb, in a blast one thousand times more powerful than the bombs dropped over Japan. This new monster generated a fireball four miles wide, resulting in lagoon temperatures up to 99,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Three islands were totally vaporized, as a shock wave felt for at least 250 miles, brought immediate and eventual death to every living thing on land, sea and air, at still undetermined distances.( ).

The nightmare continued, as gritty, pale grey ash-fallout descended upon a Japanese fishing boat, ironically named “Lucky Dragon”. Twenty five members of her crew were severely contaminated, which resulted in a firestorm of media outrage throughout Japan as well as the eventual birth of Godzilla. (This is a story in itself which I will return to in a later post).
After the original residents of Bikini Atoll were forced into nuclear exile, they suffered five more relocations, and their numbers reduced by starvation and disease as they became Pacific nomads with their way of life permanently destroyed. It soon became apparent that they had also suffered from radiation exposure. Women throughout the Marshall Islands suffered high levels of miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects such as the numerous “jellyfish babies” born without bones and filmy transparent skin. Cancer rates are high in both genders.(

While some of the displaced elders who still remember Bikini Atoll before the bombs maintain some hope that the radiation can be cleaned up and their homeland will be habitable again, that is not likely to happen. In fact, radiation levels throughout the Pacific are steadily increasing, since Japan’s damaged nuclear reactors have been pouring lethal poisons into the ocean for over two years with no end in sight.

Atomic veteran and poet Stephen M. Osborn is well aware of this reality. He was an 18 year old sailor during a series of nuclear tests conducted in the Marshall Islands in 1956. After initial and ongoing meltdowns at Fukushima he wrote this poem in October, 2011.

The Dragon That Will Not Die
Fukushima, the Dragon that will not die.
I’ve watched it spit its venom into the sky,
And dump its excrement upon the ground
Where generations will expire without a soul.

Dig it up, bury it, filter the air.
The Dragon will spew more poison without care.
Until the ground, water and air are filled with its foul scent.
And malformed babies abound, with bodies bent.

Always remember while bucks, shekels, yen and yuan rule
War nukes and biogenetics will be just a tool,
For gathering the wealth of their choice,
As they keep billions of souls from having a voice.
Perhaps the people are beginning to awake,
As they gather and Occupy and steps are taken,
To dismantle the Wealthy, and their endless greed.
To plant, in their place, a fresh and viable seed.

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